NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Propose with a Rose? Signaling in Internet Dating Markets

Soohyung Lee, Muriel Niederle, Hye-Rim Kim, Woo-Keum Kim

NBER Working Paper No. 17340
Issued in August 2011
NBER Program(s):   LS

The large literature on costly signaling and the somewhat scant literature on preference signaling had varying success in showing the effectiveness of signals. We use a field experiment to show that even when everyone can send a signal, signals are free and the only costs are opportunity costs, sending a signal increases the chances of success. In an online dating experiment, participants can attach "virtual roses" to a proposal to signal special interest in another participant. We find that attaching a rose to an offer substantially increases the chance of acceptance. This effect is driven by an increase in the acceptance rate when the offer is made to a participant who is less desirable than the proposer. Furthermore, participants endowed with more roses have more of their offers accepted than their counterparts.

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A data appendix is available at http://www.nber.org/data-appendix/w17340

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17340

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